What is shingles?
Shingles is a painful viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus and affects adults who have previously had chickenpox. A shingles rash results from activation of dormant chickenpox virus particles, often many decades after the initial chickenpox infection.
Shingles is contagious. This means the virus can spread through direct contact with fluid from blisters which can then trigger chickenpox in people who are susceptible to it.
It can take about four weeks for a shingles rash to fully heal. You may notice that your skin is painful for weeks, even after the rash has gone, but this should improve over time.
What are the symptoms of shingles?
Shingles usually presents itself as a very painful and uncomfortable rash affecting one side of the body, or over one side of your face, and can include the eye. Sometimes, the pain can persist, even after the initial rash has healed, sometimes lasting for years.
The symptoms of shingles can include:
- Rash – within a few days of feeling initial sensation changes to the skin, a red, blistering rash typically appears, most commonly on the torso, although it can also affect the face, eyes or other areas.
- Pain – the onset of shingles often starts with pain or discomfort. This can feel like a burning or tingling sensation, or you may experience numbness, as well as itchy skin in the affected area. The pain is usually on one side of the face or body as the infection follows specific nerve pathways. This pain can then continue when the rash has appeared, in the vicinity of the rash and, in some cases, continues long after the rash has disappeared. The intensity of the pain can vary from very mild to severe. It can be dull and throbbing or can include occasional sharp stabbing pains.
- Blisters filled with fluid – the rash can be accompanied by fluid, blood or pus-filled blisters which can be very painful. The blisters may burst or ooze and eventually crust over.
- Itching – the rash and blisters may cause itching.
- Skin sensitivity – the affected skin can become very sensitive to touch and even the lightest touch or breeze may cause discomfort.
- Flu-like symptoms – some individuals with shingles may experience flu-like symptoms, including chills, fever, fatigue and headache.
- Eye problems – if shingles occurs around the eye, it can lead to redness, pain and vision problems.
What causes shingles?
Shingles is caused by the same virus that is responsible for chickenpox. Once a person has recovered from chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in nerve cells. In some cases, many years later, the virus can reactivate, leading to the development of shingles.
The exact cause of shingles is not always clear, but common triggers for the virus can be:
- A weakened immune system
This can result from various factors such as illness or medications that suppress the immune system.
The risk of developing shingles increases with age due to an age-related reduction of effectiveness of the immune system.
High levels of physical or emotional stress can weaken the immune system and potentially trigger reactivation of the dormant virus.
How to treat shingles symptoms at home
If you have shingles, there are ways you can treat your symptoms at home:
- Take paracetamol to ease the pain if required
- Keep the rash clean and dry – this will reduce the risk of infection
- Wear loose clothing
- Apply a cool compress to the affected area throughout the day
- Do not let any dressings or plasters stick to the rash
- Avoid using antibiotic creams as doing so can slow the healing process
Do I need the shingles vaccine?
The shingles vaccine can help protect against the shingles virus. The NHS recommends this vaccine for those who may be at higher risk from shingles, such as those turning 65 on or after 1st September 2023, people aged 70 to 79, and people aged 50 and over who have a severely weakened immune system.
If you are at a higher risk of developing shingles, the virus is more likely to cause serious problems. Getting the vaccine can reduce your chances of contracting shingles, as well as lowering your risk of experiencing further problems if you do get the virus.
You can receive the shingles vaccination privately at your local Day Lewis Pharmacy. Speak to your local team to find out more.
Why visit your local Day Lewis Pharmacy to prevent or treat shingles?
If you think you’ve contracted shingles, Day Lewis Pharmacy is here to help. Using the NHS Pharmacy First Service, our pharmacists are able to assess your symptoms and recommend the most suitable over-the-counter or prescription-strength treatment for you.
There are plenty of reasons why you should visit Day Lewis Pharmacy for advice and treatment for shingles, such as:
- Convenience: It has never been more convenient to access the shingles advice and treatment you need. With 260 pharmacies across the UK, it’s likely your local Day Lewis Pharmacy is just a short walk or car journey away.
- Expert advice: Our pharmacists have in-depth knowledge about the shingles virus and what your treatment options are. They can provide personalised advice based on your symptoms and can recommend a remedy that will work for you, including shingles cream over-the-counter or prescription-strength treatments to reduce your discomfort so that you start to feel better quickly.
- Prevention: Aside from shingles treatments, we are perfectly placed to help you prevent suffering from shingles in the first place. Our pharmacists are able to provide advice on how you can avoid becoming unwell with shingles, and we also offer the shingles vaccine.
If you are suffering from shingles or want to prevent it, then visit your local Day Lewis Pharmacy or book online today.